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A Thousand Thoughts Inside our ADHD Brain
The experience of having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) varies from person to person 🧑. It is a complex neurodivergent disorder that can easily affect how we function in our daily lives and how we socialize with other people 🧑🤝🧑. No matter what age, gender, or race you are, ADHD feels different for everyone.
For a person with ADHD, it can be a constant struggle to organize everything: from the thoughts inside my head or the never-ending list of tasks to do to sorting my stuff, often leading to trouble locating misplaced things. It can make simple tasks seem impossible, especially when we don't have the urge and interest to do them. These are some of the things that I have challenges dealing with daily🙋♀️.
For someone who barely knows what Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is, ADHD can be something like a disorder that can be cured with the proper medication 💊 or a mental health condition that can go away in time. I hope, too, that it's true, but ADHD can be a lifelong neurological disorder.
The Question Everybody Has About ADHD
If Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can persist for life, what does it feel like to have this kind of neurodevelopmental disorder? For me, it feels like my brain is a hurricane of thoughts and ideas 🌀 that never stops. It's always in overdrive, and there's no off switch . There are times when it is extra tough to handle, but still, there can be moments of pure joy and happiness.
Some may spot ADHD in people who are always on the go. They tend to move and have lots of energy to spend constantly. Many adult ADHD people with hyperactive-impulsive symptoms always seem active and do everything of their own will 🏃. Whatever they think of, they'll do. But not everyone tends to appear like this.
When I ask my co-workers about how they see me as a person with ADHD, they always tell me that I look like someone who gets easily distracted 😵 or doesn't have the energy to sustain attention for a long time. I admit there are moments when I get lost in the middle of what they are saying because inattentive symptoms in me are tough to manage. Maybe that's why they thought of that quickly.
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The Reality of Managing ADHD Symptoms
Most people with ADHD will feel stress and anxiety when overwhelming things happen simultaneously. Our inability to process them accordingly might make it hard for us to overcome them efficiently. I, for instance, still face inner struggles every day, apart from those that I learned to mask well 🎭
This illustration shows what I exactly go through daily (sometimes, even more!) When asked about what ADHD feels like, this neurodivergent disorder can definitely be a handful.
Reaction to External Stimuli
I am diagnosed with a combined ADHD type presentation, where I experience both inattentive ADHD symptoms and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD traits🙋♀️. As someone categorized with this ADHD type, I somehow experience the extremes. When I am talking with someone, there'll be an inner struggle inside me, wishing that everything happening would stop for a bit so I can focus on the conversation.
Sometimes, outside noise feels too loud for me to handle, and saying "stop" won't make it go away. This is especially true for the things I have no control over: the slow, irritating airplane engine ✈️ sound that's passing by or the ring I hear on my mobile phone that I wish I could answer without disrespecting the person I am talking to.
Sensory overload and our reaction to it can make us feel distracted. We cannot maintain focus well because our senses are constantly bombarded with different stimuli that can be hard to process. Our inability to control our reactions and urge to respond to them can pull us away from the situation we must deal with🥺.
Details and Forgetfulness
If someone randomly asks you, what activities did you have last night after eating your dinner, or which part of your house does your mother like the most🤔? You'll probably have a hard time remembering them in an instant and start to guess the correct answer because you forgot about the details. It can put us on the spot because we haven't had the chance to focus on these little things and store them in our memories.
Many adults diagnosed with ADHD tend to have difficulty recalling information, especially when they aren't that interested in remembering it or think they won't need it in the future ❓. For example, I am aware of who I am talking with, but if you ask me about personal information, I'll start to guess or give you a half-hearted answer because I wasn't paying attention when they mentioned it. What was his name once again? I think it’s John.
The hyperactivity inside our brain makes us easily distracted by our thoughts, and ADHD might make us feel bad about ourselves when we forget things😅. However, please remember that not everyone can pay close attention; even neurotypicals cannot in every conversation, so don't burden yourself too much.
Novelty and Anything that Excites Us
Aside from our wandering thoughts, anything we deem attractive might distract us from the task we’re currently engaged in. The dopamine rush we feel makes us more excited, which can further impair our focus.
Sometimes, when we get bored quickly with topics we don't like to discuss, we tend to search around our environment and check if there are interesting things (or animals) to see 👀. We cannot pay attention well, so instead of forcing ourselves to hear what the other person is saying, we focus on anything else that can make us feel better.
However, we cannot simply do this all the time! Imagine having a serious talk with your friend about her success and failures in life, and then when a bicycle attached with bright LED lights passes by, you impulsively react to it. Your friend can immediately sense that you aren't listening well to what they are saying. They'll feel neglected and unimportant. Imagine the other way around. Will it anger you?
Our Set of To-Do Lists
Good for those people diagnosed with ADHD who can manage and overcome making tasks lists on their own. I often realize that listing down all I need to do may invite more ideas to come in the moment, adding more and more things to do inside my head 💭. And if I ever manage to make a to-do list, I'll think of it more often and end up more stressed because I haven't been able to finish all the tasks.
Preoccupied with what we need to do next and the deadline we set for ourselves, it's hard not to think about it all the time. This can lead us to more anxiety and anticipation in accomplishing these tasks. And when unexpected inconveniences come along our way, we start to fear that we won't finish anything😨.
Sometimes, even though we are aware of our ADHD symptoms and tendency not to finish tasks, we still feel disappointed and ashamed if we can't get things done. We'll think about it frequently and let it ruin our day. It's not only tiring, but it can also cause low self-esteem or may make us believe we are just too lazy to do them.
Stimming and Overstimulating
Do you ever wonder why some people with ADHD tend to stim a lot? Or what are stimming behaviors? According to CHADD, stimming is "repetitive body movements or behaviors that serve no apparent purpose." It's our way of releasing the pent-up energy ⚡inside us and making us feel better in moments of boredom or high anxiety. From a few pieces of research I read, stimming may be expected for a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder but can also be related to those with ADHD.
Stimming comes in different forms. One of them is through repeating sounds that we recently heard. It can be a word, phrase, or even sound we made ourselves. Another form of stimming is by moving different body parts continuously, like tapping our fingers or shaking our legs while sitting 🦵. When we are in a conversation, aside from the inattentive symptoms, our stimming behaviors may also get in the way.
The Impulsive ADHD Brain and Random Thoughts
I am not the only person with ADHD that can relate to this. Most adult ADHD brains produce random thoughts and ideas that are sometimes good and out of the box. But when these instances of brain hyperactivity happen during a conversation, the result may be troublesome 😱.
It can be very frustrating when you are in the middle of a conversation, and a random thought about a project pops up inside your head. What if you'll forget the idea and have trouble remembering them after your small talk? That's why sometimes, many people with ADHD tend to blurt out whatever it is that they are thinking without filtering. This can disrupt the flow of the conversation and may even offend the other person😔.
Although there are times when our ideas are worth sharing, it would be best to try and keep them to ourselves first. Even if there's a considerable chance of success in remembering the details, interrupting people from what they are saying is wrong. It can cause a lot of trouble in our relationships and make people wonder if we value their feelings.
Everything at Once
Are you done reading all the ADHD symptoms listed above? Imagine experiencing them simultaneously. That is what ADHD feels like🙋♀️. It's not a roller coaster of emotions but more of a carnival to give you the ride of your life 🎢. Words may not even adequately express how people with ADHD diagnosis get affected by these. Now, think about those adults with undiagnosed ADHD? All their lives, they might wonder why they are different, why they can't focus on one thing as others do, and how it feels like their brain is everywhere but present.
ADHD can be a constant battle between the mind and body that nobody wants to be in. It's a feeling of not being able to control your thoughts and actions no matter how much you want to. We lose our sense of concentration while thinking of other things that go through our ADHD brain. That's what it feels like, complex and full of challenges. But when equipped with the correct mindset and outlook, ADHD can still be managed and be turned into something positive😘.
How Does ADHD Feel Like?: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Generally, how does it feel like to have ADHD?
When you have ADHD, there's no such thing as a calm day. You might be overwhelmed by the number of tasks on your to-do list or find it difficult to sit still for long periods. Your mind is always going and racing with thoughts, which can make it hard for you to concentrate on things like schoolwork or conversations with friends or family members.
What’s often the cause of ADHD anxiety?
With ADHD, you can get distracted by all of these things that need doing, which causes anxiety over not being able to live up to your own expectations. This can also lead to feelings of guilt about not being able to do everything on your plate.
How do you best deal with the negative feelings attached to ADHD?
Of course, the best way to deal with it is to consult a mental health professional for proper assessment and treatment. It's also important for you to realize that ADHD is a disorder of attention and impulsivity, not intelligence or ability. You may feel like you're missing out on the "normal" life others seem to be enjoying—but there's no such thing as normal when it comes to ADHD since it affects each person differently.